A Touch of Nature 09/15/06

A Touch of Nature – 9/15/06

Fire pit at our house Here At Bluebird Cove


We initiated our new fire pit with some friends last weekend. There was a nice chill in the air here in central Virginia, so it was a perfect night fo it and we even roasted marshmallows. Reminded us all of camping when we were young. We even cut our own sticks before roasting. It didn’t take but a few marshmallows to be pretty sick from the sugar. Funny how moments like that make our childhoods seem to simple compared to the complexities of being an adult. Wouldn’t it be nice if marshmallows and a fire could take away all the complications of life? Hmmmm ….. meet you out back in an hour! 🙂

Randal and I have been promoting National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat certification. We’ve had Bluebird Cove certified and the home we lived in before this in Alabama also, which we called The Refuge. It’s a fun program and only costs $15. You can now fill out the form online. All you need is food, water, cover and nesting areas for wildlife. Find out more about it at this site and get into the fun of knowing you are providing for wildlife in your own backyard: www.nwf.org/gardenforwildlife/

White tail deer The fawns here are growing up and losing their spots. They have been such a joy to watch. They always have an eye on Mama to find out whether they should run or stay. Here in this community we are overcrowded with deer, so they are used to being pretty close to humans and houses.

I’m really excited that this community we live in has finally established a Wildlife Committee so there are various projects going on now to make wildlife a focus for those who enjoy them. We’ve needed this for a very long time so it’s an answered prayer for me.

My neighbor, Ken, and I are involved in their first project, The Bird Registry, gathering photos and names of all birds seen within our community area. I’m blessed to have neighbors that love wildlife and Ken is also a great photographer so I get to enjoy so many terrific photos of the birds that visit his yard.

Bird eating at feeder Cleaning your feeders is very important especially with the eye diseases that the House Finch has been spreading. Some feeders are easier to clean than others. We’ve been replacing our more difficult feeders with the No-No Feeder. It’s metal and very easy to clean. The water or snow goes right through it or drains out quickly so there is no spoiled seed.

It’s very versatile since it accommodates clinging and perching birds and holds a good amount of sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds attract the most variety of birds than any other single seed, so we like to have plenty on hand. Right now we’ve got 9 feeders out there with 2 more to add for the winter.

Here you can see a portion of it with a Female House Finch who is enjoying a meal. We recently ordered from Drs. Foster & Smith who had them on sale for $20. Not a bad price for a great bird feeder.

Why Don’t We Hot-Link the Websites Any More?

You’ve probably noticed I’m giving you website addresses rather than hotlinks to them. The reason for this is because for 7 years we’ve hotlinked our newsletters and spent many hours every month unlinking dead links. Now we only hotlink domain names or something that is on one of our sites since we maintain those links anyway. Time seems to be shorter all the time as the internet gets more complicated, so we are attempting to simplify so we can still enjoy a bit of life outdoors.

An Irreplaceable Wilderness – The Boreal Forest

It is soon time to see some of our familiar bird visitors that come south from the boreal forest where they were birthed. More than 80 percent of the global population of Dark-eyed Juncos is estimated to breed in this forested area. What would our winter birdwatching be without the busy chatter and delight of Juncos? Their pink bill and slate coloring make them a favorite of my winter-time window-watching delights.

Like a green blanket stretching from Alaska 3,500 miles across Canada to Newfoundland, the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska encompasses more than 1.5 billion acres and includes 25 percent of the world’s remaining intact forests.

The boreal forest shelters more than 300 bird species and 50 percent of the total populations of nearly 100 bird species. It produces an astounding 3–5 billion birds each year, one billion of which spend the winter in the United States. Eighty species recorded in last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, for example, have at least 50 percent of their breeding populations in the boreal forest. Another two billion or more boreal breeding birds winter in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Many of our most familiar birds are abundant because more than 70 percent of the boreal forest is still ecologically intact. But pressures are mounting. Hundreds of millions of acres of the boreal forest are being allocated for industrial uses–forestry, hydroelectric dams, and oil, gas, and mineral operations.

The very place that produces so many of the birds we love is being destroyed to feed the American appetite for cheap energy, paper, and other wood products. Approximately 80 percent of Canada’s forest product exports go to the United States. Almost two thirds of the wood cut in Canada’s boreal forest is used to make paper, including catalogs, junk mail, magazines, and newspapers. And many Americans would be surprised to learn that the United States buys more of its oil and gas from Canada than from any other country.

Read the entire article and please take the time to find out what you can do to help. Stop catalogs you don’t want to receive, stop junk mail, be more efficient with resources. Look here and make a difference by doing “something” to help the birds we enjoy so much in our backyards: www.birds.cornell.edu/Publications/Birdscope/Spring2006/boreal_forest.html

Gray Foxes

We’ve been seeing grey foxes quite often and our neighbors are also. We had a lot of rabbits this year and it’s also the first year that any of us have seen foxes so often. Their normal range of habitat is from one to ten miles and territories overlap, so we’re not sure how many we have. They are nocturnal, which means they roam mostly at night, so we’re seeing them with headlights in the evening or early in the morning for the sunrise walkers.

When we lived in Alabama, we had a female fox that had a den behind our property and she would come daily to feed on the peanuts we would put out for the wildlife. After filling her tummy, she would lay at a distance close enough to hear if something was wrong at the den, but far enough away to be training the pups for the time they will be on their own.

Grey foxes live in pairs rather than packs like wolves. Their life expectancy can reach 15 years. Although they are called grey, they do have some reddish coloring around the neck and chest, so when the reddish color is seen, some people think they’ve seen a red fox. Here’s a site that has more information on Gray Foxes: www.dep.state.ct.us/burnatr/Wildlife/factshts/gryfox.htm

stick bug closeup of stick bug Stick Bugs

I’ve always been fascinated with this insect since I saw one on our porch at our home in Alabama. They hung on the cedar walls around our house and if you didn’t know it was a bug, you would think that it was just a stick that had stuck. They blend in so well that you may have seen them and not even known it. They can sit with their legs all tucked into their long body.

The females carry their babies on their backs until they get big enough to go it alone. We had a Mama on our porch at one time with her babies. Just seemed like I should find something to feed the family, but maybe she was just bringing them by to show off the children.

On the photo to the left, the bottom portion of that “stick” is actually their long front legs. The eyes are almost halfway up if you notice that first dark “bump” on the stick. The photo on the right gives you a close-up view of those beady little eyes.

Have You Ever Seen a Dragonfly Being Born?

This site has a photographical record of one. The person has a 1/8 acre residential lot in Texas and has done amazing things with it. This photographic documentation of the dragonfly’s birth is priceless: www.birdcrossstitch.com/dragonflies/Transformation.html

Gray Catbird

gray catbird Our newly discovered and frequently noticed Gray Catbird has been dining on the Poke Berries and hiding in the Black Willows out front. He has totally cleared most of the berries from the plants.

We have also seen the Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebirds, and Tufted Titmouse on the Poke Berries by our office window. It’s been a delight to see them fed by such a simple wild plant that takes care of itself. The deer have come by to nibble on the young leaves which the fawns seem to be very fond of. I love to discover that what some calls weeds are wild wonders to me. This plant is considered toxic although young leaves have been used for salads. Get more information here on this plant: www.vet.purdue.edu/depts/addl/toxic/plant40.htm

If you’d like to learn more about catbirds and listen to their song which is how they got their name, visit Cornell’s bird site at this address for the Gray Catbird: www.birds.cornell.edu/BOW/GRACAT/


The groves were God’s first temples. ~William Cullen Bryant, “A Forest Hymn”

Trees are your best antiques. ~Alexander Smith

Ways to Go Green

Buy Local
Most of the produce and meats on your dinner table were shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold in your grocery store. That’s U.S. produce! We’re not talking about New Zealand beef and Costa Rican bananas and coffee. Shop a farmer’s market or find farmers and cut the emissions used to truck food around the country. Visit this website to find a local source: www.foodroutes.org/

Kill The Television
Americans average four hours a day in front of the tube – no wonder obesity rates are skyrocketing. Advertisements do not promote a healthy, eco-friendly attitude. Take a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, garden, or play games outdoors and watch the sunset.

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Pets Are Part of Our Nature at Home

In the last issue I mentiond that our Squeek loves the Life’s Abundance food. We’ve been asked if they provide samples since cats are known to be finicky eaters.

Yes, you can get free pet food and treat samples for dogs and cats on our website. She loves the treats that are designed to keep hairballs from forming. You’ll even get a sample of the vitamin supplement. These formulas are developed by Dr. Jane Bicks, a highly respected and nationally recognized holistic veterinarian and author.

princess in flower pot As you can see from these photos, Squeek loves her kitty meadow. Since she was a feral cat, she really enjoyed being on ground and eating her favorite grasses. So, we took a litter box and filled it with dirt and dug up some of the grasses she liked and a few other things to fill in plus some sticks and mulch and leaves to make her an indoor place where she could still lie on the ground. She has loved it.

If you’ve got a feral kitty or one that really likes the feel of the earth beneath their feet, you might take the time to give them a piece of their own dirt. It doesn’t take long to make one and if you give it a sunny spot the plants will continue to grow if you add a bit of water. Every time I take water over to the box, Squeek stands beide it to watch. I guess she’s wanting to be sure I do a thorough job. I’m just glad she doesn’t step into it while it’s wet.

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